Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, a group that claims to provide scriptural justification for restrictive border control and immigration policies, is promoting a months-old claim about non-citizen voting that has been debunked and withdrawn.
On Wednesday morning, a post on EBI’s Facebook page declared, “The Bible warns against open borders and cultural theft,” and linked to a Washington Times story entitled “Texas finds 95,000 noncitizens on voter rolls.” The story’s opening line declared, “Voter integrity hawks are hailing an investigation by the Texas secretary of state that uncovered 95,000 noncitizen residents who illegally registered to vote.” By noon, the EBI Facebook post had been shared more than 500 times. But the story it was promoting was dated January 30 and the report the story was based on has since been debunked and withdrawn by state officials.
Here’s the context. Back in January, the Texas Secretary of State’s office announced it was sending local election officials and the attorney general’s office a list of 95,000 registered voters the office said might not be citizens, claiming that about 58,000 of them had cast a ballot at least once between 1996 and 2018. The report was predictably exploited by Republicans who have a record of fanning fears about voter fraud by noncitizens:
President Donald Trump seized on the reports out of Texas to renew unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office prosecutes election fraud cases, sent a campaign fundraising email to supporters with the headline, “VOTER FRAUD ALERT.”
It quickly became clear that there were problems with the secretary of state’s data and state officials began warning local officials that the lists included U.S. citizens, who might wrongly be removed from voting rolls. As AP noted, “Texas is not the first state to question the citizenship of thousands of registered voters, and often early claims of possible illegal voting on a rampant scale haven’t held up.” Civil rights groups sued Texas officials.
By mid-February, the appointed-but-not-yet-confirmed Texas Secretary of State David Whitley apologized to lawmakers for sending giving fraud prosecutors what Associated Press called “a voter list that included tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who were wrongly flagged.”
On April 26, the ACLU and other civil rights organizations announced that they had reached a settlement with Texas officials:
According to the terms of the settlement, the state will rescind its original advisory announcing the purge effort and agree to a new voter database maintenance process that is much more limited in scope. The state has also agreed to provide and maintain information regarding the implementation of the process. The plaintiffs will also retain the right to bring another challenge to the process if the state continues to discriminate or violate protected rights.
But two weeks after that legal settlement, EBI has given new life to the bogus original story, generating a stream of angry comments and providing one more reminder of how long a lie can thrive in the right-wing echo chamber.